All companies that begin construction of wind power plants in 2013 will be eligible for the wind energy production tax credit, which was extended as a part of the fiscal cliff legislation that passed Tuesday.
That’s even more generous than the credit in place in 2012, where developers had to go on line and produce power before they were eligible for the 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour they get for the electricity they produce. That will likely keep the wind development gold rush going nationwide.
But in Idaho, where a state sales tax rebate ended and where utilities have turned hostile, the rush is likely still to remain over. Projects in Idaho won’t compete with those in states without a sales tax and where utility companies are at least neutral.
A couple of projects, caught up in legal action with Idaho Power, still could be completed if the developers win in court.
Among the other provisions that will help renewable energy, the bill included tax breaks for producers of cellulosic and algae-based biofuels, companies that blend biodiesel and other alternative fuels, electric motorcycles and energy efficiency investments. Energy developers and others also are helped by a one-year extension of added 50% bonus depreciation on project investments and a two-year extension of the 20% R&D tax credit.
Wind developers tell me Idaho utilities' stance on wind will change once major transmission lines are completed in the next five years. Then the utilities that will own the lines will have the incentive to sign up as many generators of green power as they can so they can get the wheeling fees, which are charged for carrying power over their lines.
But a strong voice of opposition has developed here, especially in eastern Idaho, where neighbors of wind plants complain about noise, aesthetics, wildlife impacts and even health. A major project south of Twin Falls was dropped after the Bureau of Land Management raised major concerns over its impacts on sage grouse.
The American Wind Energy Association, which had lobbied hard for the extension, said the decision will save to 37,000 jobs and to revive business at nearly 500 manufacturing facilities across the country. Wind manufacturers left Idaho when the industry left.
Forty-four percent of all new electrical generating capacity built in America in 2012 was wind, leading even natural gas, which accounted for 30 percent.